Report:College funds should be based on state goals

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky has made some progress in higher education but it must not return to old habits, according to a report released yesterday by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

The report, conducted by an independent firm, examined changes since the passage of a 1997 act mandating educational improvements, including a requirement that UK become a top-20 research institution by 2020.

One of the most significant recommendations of the report is that the goals of individual institutions, like UK and the University of Louisville, be considered secondary to larger, statewide goals.

“Without that, we will have a series of random events,” said Aims McGuinness, senior executive of the Colorado company that conducted the study. “There will be disconnect and the state will have no progress.”

By connecting the 45 state institutions into a “seamless, integrated system,” the state will not only be able to achieve university goals but the state’s economic goals as well, the report said

UK President Lee Todd disagreed with the report’s call for universities to coordinate for state funding, he said in a statement to the Kernel.

“The recommendations strongly underscore the need to differentiate the missions of Kentucky’s higher education institutions,” Todd said in the statement. “… For the reforms to be effective, our public institutions cannot be funded by a one-size-fits-all approach.”

However, Todd said he did agree with the link between higher education and economic development calling it the “primary focus of our efforts at the University of Kentucky.”

To boost the economy, Kentucky must help students make the jump from high school, full-time jobs and technical schools into degree programs, the report states.

To increase the number of degrees and the per-capita income, the report recommends Kentucky:

n Conduct a “major overhaul” of the state’s scholarship programs, including the Kentucky Excellence in Education Scholarship (KEES).

n Give more authority to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to coordinate policy and funding.

n Tighten bonds between universities and colleges with communities.

n Emphasize the importance of not only bachelor’s degree programs, but associate degree programs as well.

n Improve how high school students’ readiness for college is evaluated, including examining state standardized tests like the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS).

n Improve the transferring system from community colleges to four-year institutions.

Achieving the goals outlined in the proposal will not simply be the work of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce or state higher education organizations like the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, McGuinness said.

Instead, everything hinges on the 2008-10 funding approved by the Kentucky General Assembly beginning in January.

“The reality is that you can have programs,” McGuinness said, “but unless you get the General Assembly involved in this process the game is lost.”

New Toyota work-study program launched

Gary Convis, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, Inc, announced a plan that would allow up to 300 college students to work at Toyota and receive tax-free tuition reimbursement at yesterday’s conference.

The work-study program will begin with the first group of students in January, and will be available to students taking at least 12 credit hours who have a grade point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.